One of the herbs you see called for in many Mexican or Tex-Mex recipes is epazote, but it is unfortunately hard to come by outside of the Southwest. You can buy it dried online, but I'd never see it fresh here in Boston, even in the most expansive of grocery stores or farmers' markets. However that appears to changing as we all become more aware of regional and ethnic cuisines. Indeed, the picture above is a bunch of epazote I purchased for $2 at Chase's Daily in Belfast Maine. There is, of course, no way we can use that much epazote before it wilts but don't forget you can always dry your own herbs. Some herbs are easier to dry than others (based on water content) and I'm not sure how our epazote will do, but I will report back on the results in a couple of weeks.[UPDATE: Works great! I hung it upside down from a pot rack for about a week or two and it dried fine with no mold or anything. That bunch was enough to fill a bit more than once standard size spice jar.]
The weirdest thing about epazote is probably its smell... which is quite strong and somewhat reminiscent of varnish, which probably doesn't sound that appetizing... but it doesn't actually taste like varnish (in fact it tastes good) and the smell goes away when it's cooked. A further point in the positive column is that it contains a compound that reduces gas, which is probably why the most common thing to add epazote to is a big ole pot of beans.
Thus I decided use my epazote in Homesick Texan's Black Beans while simultaneously adapting said recipe to the pressure cooker. The only other things I've changed are that I've made it completely vegetarian (easy enough since she uses chipotles en adobo intead of ham hocks for smokiness), the amount of liquid (you need less in a pressure cooker), and ratio of water to veggie broth. Note that level of heat of the beans with four chipotles in adobo is significant so you might want to lower that if you are sensitive to spice.
Pressure Cooker Austin Style Black Beans
- 16 oz. dried black beans
- 1 tablespoon of peanut oil or canola oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 carrot, diced
- 2-4 chipotles in adobo, chopped (depending on heat preference)
- 1 tablespoon of epazote or 2 sprigs fresh
- 1/2 teaspoon of cumin
- 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped and divided
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1/4 cup lime juice
- 3 cups of water
- 4 cups of vegetable broth
- Salt to taste
- Heat oil in your pressure cooker over medium heat. Sauté the onions and carrots for 10 minutes and then add the garlic for one minute.
- Add beans, chipotles, epazote and half the cilantro. Cover beans with water and broth and scrape up any fond that has developed on the bottom of the pot.
- Secure pressure cooker lid and bring pot to high pressure over high heat. Lower heat to maintain pressure and cook for 25 minutes.
- Remove pressure cooker from heat and allow pressure to lower naturally.
- Remove lid and add the cumin, tomato paste, lime juice, salt and remaining cilantro. Simmer over medium heat until all beans are fully cooked and flavors have melded.